Kanawha County Schools faces a $4.5 million budget deficit the first day of the 2014 fiscal year, if current funding practices remain the same.
It only gets worse, according to a presentation Superintendent Ron Duerring gave Thursday night to the school board. By the end of 2018 fiscal year, the county could be close to $7.3 million in the hole.
Duerring presented the information to give board members a heads up about where the county stands financially. He presented a 17-page document, but after the meeting he said it boils down to this: costs are expected to continue to rise, and revenue isn't expected to increase.
"We have taken about every avenue we can within our means that we're able to do to increase revenues in the system," Duerring said after the meeting.
That includes closing between 25 and 30 schools in the 15 years Duerring has been superintendent, he said. Other schools were consolidated, a new safety program saved a couple million dollars and the county increased the amount of federal reimbursement it requested for Medicaid expenses. But federal funds are drying up while maintenance, utilities are going up, he said.
At the start of the 2014 fiscal year, the amount of money the county receives from property taxes is going to change. In May of this year, Kanawha County voters approved a new rate for the school system's excess levy, an additional property tax counties can use to bolster its bank account.
In the past, the county capped the percent of the levy rate. That means it couldn't receive more than a certain percent of funds from assessed property in the county. However, with more property or changing property values, the amount of money the school system could receive could -- and did -- increase.
The new levy rate caps the amount of money the county can receive at roughly $44.2 million.
After the levy passed, Duerring and county treasurer Harry Reustle said it would make budgeting tougher. Thursday night, Duerring agreed that the cap on the levy makes budgeting more difficult moving forward.
During Duerring's presentation, Reustle said the numbers are "a taste, a glance, a glimpse of what I call a default future." That means its what would happen if the board and county do nothing, he explained.